Please check the two sentences below.

  1. No one calls us names except for us.
  2. No one calls us names except us.

What's the difference between them?


In this case, you can use either one:

1a. No one calls us names except for us.
1b. No one calls us names except us.

In this example "us" is the list of exceptions to the set of all people ("everyone"). When you have a discrete set like this, you can use either one with the same meaning.

But sometimes you don't have a discrete set. For example:

2a. It was a pleasant day, except for the weather.
2b. *It was a pleasant day, except the weather.

"A pleasant day" isn't a discrete set of things to which "the weather" is an exception. As a result, you need except for.

You also use except for at the beginning of a sentence:

3a. Except for me, everyone got to eat cake.
3b. *Except me, everyone got to eat cake.

But you typically use except before a preposition phrase:

4a. ?She likes to go for walks except for on rainy days.
4b. She likes to go for walks except on rainy days.

(People do say things like example 4a, but it's a lot less common.)

  • Can I just say "for the weather" here constitute a part? So actually it's "except + for the weather", the same usage like "She is young for her age". – Kinzle B Feb 25 '14 at 13:36
  • Yes, "for the weather" is a constituent (specifically, a preposition phrase). – snailcar Feb 25 '14 at 15:49
  • great answer! didn't really know the difference up to today. – technophyle Sep 18 '15 at 1:16
  • Where did you get this explanation? Is it of your own making or can you cite a reference? Regarding 2b's except the weather being ungrammatical, I wonder why this ngram says otherwise: goo.gl/NenFY6 – JK2 May 30 '18 at 3:52
  • Of course the chart tells us no such thing. Except the weather is perfectly fine as a string in examples like "Occluded fronts are similar to cold fronts, except the weather isn't as violent", which are what you're finding in Google Books (please don't call the tool "Ngram" unless you want to confuse linguists). This comment would make a good case study in how not to use Google Books Ngram Viewer. – snailcar May 30 '18 at 13:51

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